I was recently invited to dine at Solare Ristorante in Liberty Station. Jake and I visited Solare many moons ago and didn’t have a really great experience back then, but I was happy to give them another shot to see how they are doing now.
When we arrived, the hostess asked where we wanted to sit (indoors or outdoors). Jake wanted to sit outside but it felt a little too muggy to me, so I choose indoors. The hostess asked if we’d like to sit in the wine room and I said, “Yes!” It was a cozy little space with one table and we just had to wait a few minutes for them to set it up for us.
There’s a fan above to help keep the room cooler. It’s not a totally enclosed wine room, more like the wine racks surrounding it enclose the space. There’s a glass door that can be shut for extra privacy but we didn’t need that. I’d rather have the extra air! Waiters would occasionally come in to grab a bottle from around us, but that didn’t bother me. The small space made it feel like we were dining alone and had a fun, romantic feel.
[Polpette al Forno / $11]
For our first appetizer, we chose the meatballs. They are a blend of veal and beef, topped with arugula and Parmesan cheese.
There were four fairly small meatballs in the dish. This is what they look like on the inside – it’s quite smooth. The texture was very soft, almost a little too soft. The meatballs were flavorful but I wished there was a little something else – like some fresh herbs – to brighten them up a bit more. The tomato sauce was nice, though we wished there was a little bit more of it. The arugula I totally picked off. I didn’t like it with the meatballs. Overall I thought these were a little underwhelming. For one, they are tiny tiny meatballs and they need more texture and mouth feel. They were almost like a smooth meat paste.
[Bruschetta alle Verdure Arrosto / $10]
Our second appetizer caught my eye because the description said they had ricotta on them, which is one of my very favorite cheeses. These are a bit different from other bruschetta I’ve had since the topping consisted of roasted vegetables. The vegetables were cut on the larger side. I don’t know about you, but I dislike large chunks of celery. I like celery… but I like it to be small bits. The other veggies were carrots and I think maybe eggplant (I wasn’t sure). It’s served on focaccia bread with a small amount of ricotta (you can see it a little at the bottom). Jake pretty much brushed all the veggies off and just ate the bread. I felt the topping was not too exciting and would have preferred something more traditional. The flavors are a bit muted and the large chunks turned me off.
[Gnocchi al Telefono / $17]
For my entree, I couldn’t resist the allure of homemade Gnocchi. I haven’t had a lot of good gnocchi here in San Diego so my brain was on overdrive thinking, “What if this gnocchi sucks, too??” Luckily I’m able to ignore the voices in my own head (after a brief argument… I mean… nevermind).
This turned out to be a really excellent version of gnocchi! The gnocchi (which, in case you didn’t know, is made from potatoes) were very soft, tender and melt in your mouth. It was served in a light San Marzano tomato sauce with a few of the tomatoes thrown in. There’s also basil mozzarella that’s mixed in, making it nice and cheesy. The gnocchi were like little pillows of deliciousness. The sauce was just the right amount – not drowning in sauce but enough to flavor the whole dish. I enjoyed this very much!
[Cotoletta di Vitello / $25]
Jake decided on ordering the Veal which was done Milanese style. You can’t quite see it as well in this photo, but the bone from the chop was sticking straight up in a dramatic flair. We were both impressed with how perfectly crisp and crunchy this veal was. It was quite tender and juicy on the inside. Adding the extra Parmesan on top also helped give it a little boost of salt and seasoning that I felt it needed. I kept eating off of Jake’s plate for another bite of this veal…. it was so good!
Also served with the veal chop were roasted vegetables (Jake ate a brussels sprout! I did not. But that’s because there was only one.) and this really lovely Parmesan-Reggiano polenta cake. It was formed like a perfect hockey puck and had a lovely golden, crunchy exterior. It was creamy and delicious on the inside as well. I loved the polenta cake as much as I loved the veal chop!
[focaccia with dipping oil]
After we got our entrees, we were given this complimentary focaccia with dipping oil. I’m pretty sure we should have gotten this first with our appetizers… but no matter. I’m not one to turn down free bread. The focaccia was still slightly warm and the dipping oil was quite delicious. There was salt at the bottom and the dried herbs gave it an extra boost of flavor that I loved. I only managed to eat one since I was starting to get full but I loved that dipping oil.
[Sicilian Cannoli / $8]
For dessert, I decided that cannolis sounded like a mighty fine idea. The filling is sweet and creamy (I believe they use marscapone cheese for their filling here) and has chocolate chips in it but a little bit of orange peel. The orange peel gives it a bright little oomph. The shells were nice and crispy and I enjoyed these. Jake just thought they were okay, he thought the filling was a little too sweet.
Jake ordered one scoop of pistachio gelato. The pistachio flavor was quite light on this one, it almost tasted more like vanilla than pistachio. We both thought it was just okay.
There were some misses here at Solare but our entrees were definitely a big hit with both of us and we were happy that we shared our dishes with each other. I loved sitting in the wine room as well and it feels like a great spot for a date. I’d come back just for those entrees, but I think I’d skip on appetizers in the future.
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at Solare via Bam Communications. Our meal was complimentary and I received no further compensation for this post.
2820 Roosevelt Rd.
San Diego, CA 92106